Religion in Vajhoros, III

Shojkasproagmă – the kingdom of sorcery

Theory

The shojkă is no less significant for Vajhorans than the tulmăn, performing the vital role of explaining the existence of evil. Incoporeal spirits, shojkam vent their pain during vrtaikă through inflicting pain on others by the use of preternatural powers. They vary in power from minor poltergeists to spirits that wreak enormous natural devastation – though the worst calamities are generally blamed on congregations, rather than on a single sorcerer-spirit.

In Vamagmrjioka, becoming a shojkă is simple – by acquiring knowledge of material things, spirits come to be able to incorporate those things in their own provukam, essentially seeing them as replacements for a human body during their period of vrtaikă. Some may form strong bonds to these objects, inhabiting them as living spirits incorporate their bodies – others continue to rove the world, merely using the objects as tools.

It is impossible for a shojkă to incarnate conventionally without relinquishing their attachments to other things – their distorted provukă cannot ‘fit’ into the shape of a human body – yet because such attachments provide a degree of relief from the existential pain (tsaien) of vrtaikă, few shojkam can ever make that sacrifice, and their crutch against pain merely condemns them to eternal suffering.

Theoretically, not all shojkam are evil – and even those that are generally malign may not be universally so, retaining affection for certain people, nations, causes or the like. However, the continuing and increasing pain of vrtaikă drives them all relentlessly in the direction of malignancy.

Practice

Distortion of provukă requires two things – a weakening of provukă and a knowledge of the ‘true name’ of another object (though ‘true name’ is now conceived as more than a simple word). The first can be achieved by anybody in the ordinary course of religious practice, though the extreme weakness required to become a powerful shojkă is unavailable to all but the most diligent. The second factor is obtained through study – not only in life but in death. Many practitioners of Akratkajioka, the ancient school of thought from which Vamagmrjioka ultimately developed, believed that the pain of vrtaikă could be avoided through involvement in the joy of the natural world – spirits would not experience tsaien during vrtaikă because their desires and interests were realigned to focus on gaining knowledge of the world. This is now seen as the route to becoming shojkam.

Most shojkam are minor spirits, and most spirits have the ability to become shojkam if they are not properly educated, obsessing after death on things well known to them in life, such as a particular place or possession. The greater shojkam, however, are far rarer. Many are held to be practitioners of Akratkajioka; others, ancient shamans from before civilisation. There is, moreover, a widespread belief in the existence of shojkainvôgam, “sorcerer-cults”, in which people intentionally acquire the status of shojkă out of a lust for power.

Status

The quest to become a shojkă is a thoroughly discredited quest in Vamagmrjioka, much akin to devil-worship. It is seen as a fundamentally misguided, as well as evil, purpose, and could never be admitted to in public. In general, it serves as an accusation, particularly against those who are too educated, too curious about the world, too willing to engage in science without the supervision of the religious authorities.

Nonetheless, shojkainvôgam do exist, at least in the larger cities, even if their purposes are often more political and social, outlets for discontent and protestations of independence, than they are magical – in general they feature not a desire to become shojkam but a willingness to bear that risk in the pursuit of knowledge.

More common are shojkvôgam: shojka-cults. These occur chiefly in rural areas, where they appease powerful and malicious spirits living in an area. This is not necessarily condemned by the majority – in theory, shojkam can hear humans and can be moved to mercy, or even pacified and reformed, by human appeals. Certainly reason is advised in dealings with the troublesome spirits of the newly-departed, who are likely to be more amenable to debate than older, more dehumanised spirits. However, the cultic practice is deprecated, as in general pandering to evil spirits who have no intention of ever improving themselves.

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